Genre: Anthologies (multiple authors)

Guest Review: Block & Tackle by Elise Faber, Stephanie Fournet & Kristin Vayden

Posted May 11, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 3 Comments

Guest Review: Block & Tackle by Elise Faber, Stephanie Fournet & Kristin VaydenReviewer: Tracy
Block & Tackle by Elise Faber, Stephanie Fournet, Kristin Vayden
Published by Blue Tulip Publishing
Publication Date: March 13th 2017
Genres: Anthologies (multiple authors), Contemporary Romance, Sports
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

Offsides by Elise Faber

Job title:
Executive Assistant for CEO of Prestige Media Group

Job description:
(1) Deal with a massive amount of emails.
(2) Schedule conference calls and meetings with top athletes and other hugely important people.
(3) Pick up dry cleaning and food, consult on tie selection, make dinner reservations, and book flights . . . basically act as a wife-on-steroids.
(4) THE IMPORTANT ONE: Do not, under any circumstances, fall in love with Devon Scott—demanding boss, former NHL player, and all-around gorgeous specimen of the male persuasion.

Job performance:
Failing.
Absolutely failing at number four.

Off Guard by Stephanie Fournet

Life couldn’t be better for Charlie Woodruff.

After a year of holding out, she’s finally landed the job she’s always wanted in the city of her dreams. An apartment she can afford and new friends at work make the transition easy.
When she meets a gorgeous stranger who makes her laugh and steals her breath, it seems like the icing on the cake...

Until Charlie discovers he’s a client.

Hutch Barlow — newly drafted wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders — looks like an avenging angel, hangs on her every word, and is completely off-limits. The trouble is he also refuses to take “no” for an answer.

And if she’s being honest, Charlie doesn’t want him to.

But seeing him means she could lose everything — including her heart.

Off Limits by Kristin Vayden

Everything about Ava screams off limits.
To want her is to invite disaster.
To pursue her is to risk my job.
To kiss her might cost me my best friend.
But all those risks seem small in light of the first problem.
She hates me.

To her I’m a sell out, choosing to advance my career rather than protect my biggest client.
Her brother.
And my best friend.
She hasn’t spoken to me in over a year, but that ends now.
Because I’m done with holding back.
To hell with the consequences.
Wish me luck . . .

Offsides by Elise Faber

Devon is a retired hockey player and now the CEO of Prestige Media Group.  Becca is his temporary assistant while his regular assistant is on maternity leave.  Devon is hot for Becca but knows that he shouldn’t get involved with an employee – even a temporary one.  Becca has got it bad for Devon but as much as she wants him her life is too crazy to get involved with him.  Her mother needs medical care and Becca works two jobs to try and pay the medical bills.  She’s also got an angry ex that is messing with her and is more than dangerous to both Becca and Devon.

This was a sweet boss/employee story.  Devon doesn’t hold out for very long before he’s giving in to his desire for Becca but I loved the sexual tension between the two of them.  I liked a lot about this story – the dialogue, the story, the passion between Devon and Becca – it was just a good read.

Story rating: 4 out of 5

 

Off Guard by Stephanie Fournet

Charlie has finally started the job of her dreams.  She’s recently moved to San Francisco and is out running when she runs into a fellow runner.  They hit it off and she thinks that maybe this guy might be someone she can really like until she finds out his name, Hutch Barlow, and realizes who he is, new wide receiver for the Oakland Raider, and that he’s a client of her boss.  Prestige Media Group – her new employer – strictly forbids employees from dating clients.  Charlie tries to get Hutch to understand that she can’t see him but Hutch refuses to take no for an answer – showing up at her apartment with dinner and his irresistible charm. Charlie finds herself falling in love with Hutch but she knows that she can never be with him as she’s not willing to sacrifice the career she’s always wanted.

This was an adorable story.  I loved Hutch’s persistence with Charlie even knowing that she was off-limits to him.  He just liked her so much and was willing to give up a lot to be with her that it warmed my heart.  I think a lot of people would have thought he was ridiculous but I found it romantic and lovely.  Fournet has a way with words and she did a great job writing this story.

Story rating: 4 out of 5

 

Off Limits by Kristin Vayden

Markus and Bryce were college roommates and best friends.  Bryce got drafted into the NFL and Markus got hired by Prestige Media Group and becomes his agent.  Bryce has a twin, Ava, who Markus has been in love with for forever.  He wants nothing more than to make Ava happy but she hates him because she thought at one point in Bryce’s career that Markus was selling out and taking a risk with Bryce’s life.  Bryce has gotten a concussion but recovered and went back onto the field.  Ava believed that Bryce’s life was on the line if he got hit again but he was fine.  Five years later Ava still hates Markus – or at least acts like she does.  She can’t resist the man for long as she’s always had a thing for him. Markus should stay away from his best friend’s sister but he just can’t do it once she finally forgives him.

Unfortunately this was my least favorite of the three stories.  I didn’t feel the chemistry between Markus and Ava as I felt I should.  I also didn’t feel the whole forbidden love thing that the whole anthology was based on.  There were some decent parts of the story but overall I didn’t care for Off Limits.

Story rating: 3 out of 5

 

Overall book rating: 3.75 out of 5

four-stars

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Guest Review: What Happens Under the Mistletoe by Sabrina Jeffries, Candace Camp, Karen Hawkins, Meredith Duran

Posted January 5, 2016 by Whitley B in Reviews | 4 Comments

Guest Review: What Happens Under the Mistletoe by Sabrina Jeffries, Candace Camp, Karen Hawkins, Meredith DuranReviewer: Whitley
What Happens Under the Mistletoe by Sabrina Jeffries, Karen Hawkins, Candace Camp, Meredith Duran
Series: Sinful Suitors #1.5
Also in this series: The Study of Seduction
Published by Pocket Books
Publication Date: October 27, 2015
Genres: Historical
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

New York Times bestselling authors Sabrina Jeffries, Karen Hawkins, and Candace Camp, and USA TODAY bestselling author Meredith Duran come together for a sizzling historical romance holiday anthology.

Stunned by the heat of an unexpected kiss on a cold winter’s eve, two strangers from vastly different worlds turn hotheaded principles into burning passion in Sabrina Jeffries’s delightful yuletide story, "The Heiress and the Hothead".

In the snowy Scottish countryside, Karen Hawkins’s rakish duke has an unforgettable holiday encounter in "Twelve Kisses" when the alluring lady he surprises under the mistletoe is not who he expected, but a long-lost love with a score to settle.

In "By Any Other Name", Edinburgh is aglitter for Christmastime as Candace Camp sends a curious gentleman in hot pursuit of an intriguing lady in disguise—one who refuses to reveal her true identity, though she fears he has already stolen her heart with his kiss.

In "Sweet Ruin", will the festive spirit of the season sweep Meredith Duran’s feisty heroine beneath the mistletoe—and back into the arms of the dashing rogue whose carelessness soiled her reputation and sent her into exile in London?

In this all-new story collection sparkling with sexy charm and heartwarming wit, four beloved bestselling authors reveal the mix-ups and make-ups, the missed chances and golden opportunities that come but once a year.

Whitley’s review of What Happens Under the Mistletoe by Sabrina Jeffries et al.

The Heiress and the Hothead

A sweet enough story, about a reporter who’s tackling inhumane working conditions in mills and a woman who owns a mill.  They get off to a bad start when the reporter (quite understandably) is wary of anyone who runs a mill, and our American heiress’s delicate sensibilities are upset by this. (Okay, so, clearly I’m biased in their argument.  The whole thing had shades of #NotAllMillOwners to it.  And FFS, the guy wasn’t even all that offensive; it felt like the woman was just upset that the reporter guy didn’t immediately assume she was an angel.)  Once they got over their Required First Meeting Misunderstanding and down to the business of shutting down the local, heinous mill (and making out a lot in the process), things got a lot better.

Twelve Kisses

A noble at a masquerade plans to kiss his mistress under the mistletoe, but his old lover is dressed in the same costume and Murphy’s Law applies.  After being caught in such a scandalous embrace, the two try to go get the woman’s father and convince him to help ease the gossip, but they’re stuck in a snowstorm instead.  They find a secret cabin in the woods (it makes sense in the end, really) to hide out, and that’s when things actually get interesting.  I could have done without the party set-up, as it doesn’t seem to have added anything and all the good stuff was during the storm.  I very much enjoyed these two characters fighting and slowly discovering what broke them up as a couple before the story’s opening.  It was a very believable, human sort of misunderstanding, and they were sweet while working it out.

By Any Other Name

I straight-up DNFed this crap.  The guy is an unrelenting jackass and the whole setup is creepy as all get out.  The girl is cross-dressing to try and find her wayward brother, who likes to hang out in gambling halls.  The guy saves her from a mugging attempt and discovers her true gender.  All is well and good, except then the girl repeatedly, emphatically says “Don’t try to find me, leave me alone, stop, no, don’t” while the guy just gleefully runs around tracking her down and stalking her to various events anyway.  I stopped after the guy realized she’d told him a lie and he mournfully thought “well, that must mean she wasn’t interested in me.”  NO, SHITHEAD, ALL OF HER REPEATED CRIES OF “STOP FOLLOWING ME” MEAN SHE’S NOT INTERESTED, WTF IS WITH GUYS WHO IGNORE BOLD-ASS STATEMENTS AND THEN READ 8000 MEANINGS INTO RANDOM ACTIONS YOU ARE AN IDIOT AND I HATE YOUR FACE.

ahem  Yes, anyway.

Sweet Ruin

Without a doubt my favorite short story of the bunch.  The lady is the daughter of a diplomat who has to play hostess after her father is called away from a house party.  One of the guests has stolen an important document, so her father sends in one of his (ish) employees to help covertly search for it.  Only Daughter and Employee had a bit of a fling a few years ago which ended badly, so they are none too pleased to see each other.  I loved the interactions between these two.  So cutthroat while staying (technically) civil.  And while they find out that their breakup was a misunderstanding, said misunderstanding isn’t dragged out to the point of frustration.  It’s handled perfectly, with just enough double-talk to make you cry “no, mush faces already!” but before that gets old they do.  And the ending when they confront the conniver that broke them apart was beautiful.  A+, perfect short story.

Rating: 4 out of 5

four-stars

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Anthology Review: The Lost by J.D. Robb, Patricia Gaffney, Mary Blayney, Ruth Langan

Posted December 28, 2009 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Anthology Review: The Lost by J.D. Robb, Patricia Gaffney, Mary Blayney, Ruth LanganReviewer: Holly
The Lost by Nora Roberts, J. D. Robb, Patricia Gaffney, Mary Blayney, R.C. Ryan
Published by Penguin Publishing Group
Publication Date: November 24th 2009
Genres: Fiction, Romance, General, Anthologies (multiple authors)
Pages: 384
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
three-half-stars

J.D. Robb’s Missing in Death investigates a female tourist’s disappearance during a ferry ride. Detective Eve Dallas wonders…if she didn’t jump, and she’s not on board, then where in the world is she?
In Patricia Gaffney’s The Dog Days of Laurie Summer, a woman awakens to a familiar yet unsettling world.
In Mary Blayney’s Lost in Paradise, a man locked in an island fortress finds hope for freedom in an enigmatic nurse.
And Ruth Ryan Langan’s Legacy belongs to a young woman who unearths a family secret buried on the grounds of a magnificent but imposing Irish castle.

Holly‘s review of The Lost anthology featuring J.D. Robb, Patricia Gaffney, Mary Blayney, Ruth Langan

I’ll admit I picked this up for the JDR novella, but I’ve read other short stories by the other authors before (in previous JDR anthos) and figure this would be a good collection.

J. D. Robb’s Missing in Death investigates a female tourist’s disappearance during a ferry ride. Detective Eve Dallas wonders…if she didn’t jump, and she’s not on board, then where in the world is she?

Surprisingly, I didn’t love this. Generally I like the in-between novellas, but this one didn’t grab me. It was interesting, but not as good as I’ve come to expect from Robb.

The investigation of Eve’s was a good one and I was intrigued by the mystery (how does a person get a body off a packed ferry with no one realizing it?).

I think my problem stems from the gray area Eve has to deal in. Generally having to cross a line would have bother her quite a bit more than it did. While I understood the reason she chose to go the way she did, I don’t think there was enough internal conflict over it.

On the other hand, it does show quite a bit of growth on her part, so…I’m conflicted.

3.75 out of 5

In Patricia Gaffney’s The Dog Days of Laurie Summer, a woman awakens to a familiar yet unsettling world.

This is probably my favorite story in the group. I didn’t expect to like it, but it really pulled me in. Laurie Summer had an accident and ends up in a coma. For 3 months she can hear everything that goes on around her but can’t respond. Until one day she wakes up as a dog. Through the eyes of the dog, she realizes what’s truly important in life.

While this could have been cheesy, Gaffney wrote it in such a way that it was charming and sweet. Some of the thoughts Laurie had as the dog had me laughing out loud, not to mention her actions.

Or maybe I fell into the story because my husband often gives our dogs voices and thoughts? Either way, I enjoyed it.

4 out of 5

In Mary Blayney’s Lost in Paradise, a man locked in an island fortress finds hope for freedom in an enigmatic nurse.

This is my least favorite of the collection. Isabelle is asked by her priest if she’ll agree to live on an island for a year and serve as their nurse, bring much needed vaccines and modern medicine to the inhabitants. She agrees, but quickly realizes all is not as it seems.

Sebastian was cursed 100+ years ago and had hoped Isabelle would be the one to break it, but he’s afraid to open himself up to her. Instead of embracing what they could have had, he pushes her away.

I think part of the problem for me is I was a bit lost with the story. Not the backstory, but the things that were happening between Isabelle and Sebastian. It would seem they were together and happy, then Sebastian would push her away for no reason.

In the end I didn’t care for the overall tone of the story or believe in their HEA.

2.5 out of 5

And Ruth Ryan Langan’s Legacy belongs to a young woman who unearths a family secret buried on the grounds of a magnificent but imposing Irish castle.

I liked the premise behind this story. Aidan has spent the last several months taking care of her mother and now that she’s passed on has been left with a mountain of debt. When she’s offered a considerable amount of money to go to Ireland to see if she’s the long-lost granddaughter of an old Irishman she agrees out of desperation, though she doesn’t believe for a second she’s the woman the old man is looking for.

Ross is her would-be grandfather’s lawyer and surrogate son. They immediately feel an attraction to one another, but they rub each other wrong. As they wait for proof of Aidan’s ancestry, they become closer and closer.

While I enjoyed this story for the most part, I felt it was very rushed at the end. Aidan and Ross go from sniping at and antagonizing each other to falling in love very quickly. I wish there had been a bit more page time, or even a gloss-over of several weeks. As it stands they go from being complete strangers to being in love and living happily ever after in the space of a few days.

Had it been just a bit longer I would have enjoyed it quite a bit more.
3.25 out of 5

Overall this is a good collection if you’re looking for a quick, light read. I imagine many In Death fans will want it for the Robb story, but I hope that, like me, enjoyment can be found in some of the others.

Final grade: 3.5 out of 5
This book is available from Jove. You can buy it here or here in e-format(right now Fictionwise is offering a 100% rebate on this book, so if you purchase from there you’re basically getting the book for free).

three-half-stars

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Anthology Review: Suite 606 by J. D. Robb, Mary Blayney, R.C. Ryan, Mary Kay McComas

Posted December 11, 2008 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Anthology Review: Suite 606 by J. D. Robb, Mary Blayney, R.C. Ryan, Mary Kay McComasReviewer: Holly
Suite 606 by J. D. Robb, Mary Blayney, R.C. Ryan, Mary Kay McComas
Series: In Death #27.5
Also in this series: Creation in Death, Strangers in Death, Salvation in Death, Kindred In Death, Naked in Death, Glory in Death, The Lost, Rapture in Death, Immortal in Death, Fantasy in Death, New York to Dallas, Celebrity in Death, Brotherhood in Death
Published by Penguin
Publication Date: November 4th 2008
Genres: Fiction, Anthologies (multiple authors), General
Pages: 352
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb headlines a hot new anthology of paranormal romance.
FEATURING A NEW EVE DALLAS NOVELLA.

J.D. Robb plunges Lieutenant Eve Dallas into the violent aftermath of a ritualistic murder.
Mary Blayney, investigates a deception that has kept two lovers apart for years.
Ruth Ryan Langan brings a lost man out of a storm to face a breathtaking twist of fate.
And Mary Kay McComas follows a mother, her son, and a wizard lost through the threads of time.

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb headlines a hot new anthology of paranormal romance.

FEATURING A NEW EVE DALLAS NOVELLA.

I’m not going to lie. I only bought this because I wanted to read the Eve/Roarke entry. I’m completely obsessed with the series and buy each and every book that comes out – no matter the length. I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when it turned out the In Death entry wasn’t my favorite of the collection.

J.D. Robb plunges Lieutenant Eve Dallas into the violent aftermath of a ritualistic murder – and into the mind of an alleged witness who can’t remember a thing to save his life.

My favorite In Death books are the ones where Eve is taken out of her comfort zone, whether it be personally or professionally. As anyone who’s read the series knows, Eve is extremely uncomfortable with any kind of “woo-woo” stuff. A ritualistic murder that looks like something to do with the occult definitely falls in the woo-woo category. Throw in the fact that Roarke is determined to deal with it by unconventional means and a great story was in the making.

I really enjoyed all the elements of it, I was just a bit disappointed in how fast everything was wrapped up. I don’t know about the other fans of the series, but one of my favorite elements are Eve’s cases. This case was interesting, but it didn’t take long to solve and I didn’t like how little face time everything got. Naturally, as this is a novella, I wasn’t expecting a saga, but..I guess it was just a bit too rushed.

Still, it was a nice little entry and I wasn’t totally disappointed.

4 out of 5

Love endures for Mary Blayney, who investigates the connection between a ghost, a magic coin, and a deception that has kept two lovers apart for years.

I really enjoyed this entry. Summer and Stephen were madly in love, but due to a misunderstanding were separated and Summer married Stephen’s best friend, Reggie, instead. Several years later they’re reunited, but moving past old hurts may not be as easy at it seems – especially when you add an interfering ghost into the mix.

The dialogue was wonderful and the story well-told, but the author kind of lost me towards the end with Suite 606. In this entry Suite 606 is a magical place for couples to go to work out their differences. I think the cheese factor was just a bit too high for it to work for me.

I did really enjoy the resolution. It was kind of sugary sweet, but I liked it. I do think Reggie needed to get more of a comeuppance, but then we all know I’m kind of a bloodthirsty gal.

4.5 out of 5

Ruth Ryan Langan brings a lost man out of a pounding storm and into the arms of a welcoming woman for a breathtaking twist of fate.

The premise behind this story was a good one. Sam is a burned out cop who just lost his partner (kind of an overused element, but it worked) who needs time for himself. Mary Catherine and Anna are stuck under their step-father’s thumb until Anna, the youngest, is 18 and can leave. Mary Catherine and Sam are instantly attracted to each other and it isn’t long before they’re doing more than just waiting out the storm.

The problem is that the story didn’t really seem to go anywhere. BEWARE: SPOILERS AHEAD Sam is supposedly the best investigator when it comes to cold cases because he seems to just have an intuition about what happened. It turns out that he basically dreamt the whole thing. The thing is, there was really no resolution one way or the other. Things are left open in the past and open in the present. Had she firmed things up a bit this would have worked much better for me.

3 out of 5

And Mary Kay McComas follows a mother and son lost in the threads of history and an impaired wizard who must return them to their own world to fulfill his own destiny – in time.

This is by far my favorite of this anthology. It started off kind of slow for me, but after the first chapter it really picked up and I was drawn right in. The thread of this story shows up in each of the previous. I thought it was really clever and fun, especially since I wondered how things played out from the previous (I’m trying not to spoil it, but it’s hard!) stories.

All the elements of this novella worked for me. After being seriously injured in a car accident, Marie became addicted to prescription drugs. She’s been clean for several years now, but she’s still trying to mend the rift her addiction caused between her and her son, Hugh. The pain between them was real and went deep, and I like that the author didn’t try to just gloss over it.

They’re in a museum together when a glass case pops open and Hugh is transported back in time by the magical stone inside. Nester is the wizard the stone belongs to and the three of them have to find a way to get back to the present. The story was a lot of fun and really worked for me. I loved seeing the different places they traveled.

I loved the relationship between Marie and Nester. It wasn’t an “instant attraction”, but more a slow “getting to know you”. I really liked that it wasn’t rushed. I wasn’t sure how things were going to end up, but I was totally satisfied.

My only complaint? I didn’t want it to end. This is the first thing I’ve read by McComas, but it definitely won’t be the last.

4.75 out of 5

Overall this is a great anthology. I definitely found some new authors to glom.

4.5 out of 5

This book is available from Berkley. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

four-half-stars

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Review: Anthology – The Magical Christmas Cat

Posted September 29, 2008 by Holly in Reviews | 15 Comments

Review: Anthology – The Magical Christmas CatReviewer: Holly
The Magical Christmas Cat by Lora Leigh, Erin McCarthy, Nalini Singh, Linda Winstead Jones
Series: Breeds #17, Psy/Changeling #3.5, Murphy Sisters #2
Also in this series: Bengal's Heart, Caressed By Ice, Mine to Possess, Hostage to Pleasure, Kiss of Snow, Tangle of Need, Slave to Sensation, Tangle of Need, Heart of Obsidian, Shield of Winter, Shield of Winter, Visions of Heat, Mine to Possess, Caressed By Ice, Branded by Fire, Blaze of Memory, Mine to Possess, Hostage to Pleasure, Hostage to Pleasure, Shards of Hope, Shards of Hope, Heart of Obsidian, Caressed By Ice, Branded by Fire, Blaze of Memory, Play of Passion, Allegiance of Honor, Kiss of Snow, Tangle of Need, Shield of Winter, Shards of Hope, Allegiance of Honor, Allegiance of Honor, Wild Embrace, Wild Embrace, Wild Embrace
Published by Penguin
Publication Date: 2008
Genres: Fiction, Anthologies (multiple authors)
Pages: 372
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Put a little meow in their stocking this year with these tales of Christmas and felines-from beloved bestselling authors!
New York Times bestselling author Lora Leigh and top-selling authors Nalini Singh, Erin McCarthy, and Linda Winstead Jones have a special gift for readers this year: heartwarming holiday stories featuring passionate romance, paranormal adventure, and a distinctly alluring feline touch. With four new stories-including one featuring Lora Leigh's genetically altered Feline Breeds-this is a collection packed with more surprises than Christmas morning, and more chills than the snowiest winter night...

 

I haven’t really been in the mood for paranormals at all lately, but I love Nalini Singh, and after her guest visit recently I decided I really wanted to read her entry in this anthology. As always, I was very impressed with her novella. But much to my surprise, I was equally impressed with the other three. It isn’t often that all the entires in an anthology work for me, but this is one of the few.

STROKE OF ENTICEMENT by Nalini Singh

I love the Psy/Changeling series. Just absolutely adore it! Singh has created an amazing world that’s easy to fall into. Even though this was a short story, it was still an excellent representation of the series.

When Zach is called to school because his nephew has gotten up to some mischief, he isn’t expecting to meet his mate, but that’s exactly what he finds in the young boy’s teacher, Annie. Annie, a human, has been sheltered by her mother after she suffers an injury in an accident as a child. Now that she’s gained some independence, she isn’t anxious to give that up for anyone, especially a man. But both man and leopard are determined to have her, and neither are willing to give up until they get what they want.

Zach is fun, caring and willing to do whatever it takes to make Annie see that he’s the one for her. Annie is a sweet woman who only wants to live her life on her own terms. She has a slight disability – leftover from a train accident she had in her youth – and struggles to be accepted as a whole woman. I liked that she didn’t let her injury stop her from living, and she also didn’t let her insecurities from it rule her life.

With wonderfully drawn characters and the storyline moves right along, I highly recommend it. Honestly? It made me want a Leopard Changeling of my own.

4.5 out of 5

CHRISTMAS BREE
by Erin McCarthy

This novella is an entry in McCarthy’s Ohio’s Most Haunted Town series, which includes Heiress for Hire, one of my favorite contemps. For those of you who have read Charlotte’s Web, the novella in An Enchanted Season, an anthology that came out last year, you’re already acquainted with the Murphy sisters, who are witches. If you haven’t read Charlotte’s Web, I don’t think it will hurt you to read this story first.

Bree is surprised, and dismayed, when her sister predicts she’s going to meet a man in a pink shirt. She isn’t interested in having a man at all, but especially not one that wears pink. She’s shocked, however, when her sister’s prediction comes true and the pink shirt guy turns out to be none other than Ian Stone, her friend Amanda’s attorney and the man she’s been dreaming about – literally – for almost a year. They’re polar opposites and Ian is nothing like the men she usually dates.

Ian hasn’t been able to stop thinking about Bree since he met her in his office 9 months ago, and the fact that she’s been starring in his most erotic dreams since then isn’t helping things along. When a client of his shows an interest in Bree’s house, Ian figures it’s the perfect excuse to visit Bree and see if she’s everything he remembers. But neither are prepared for the strength of their attraction for one another, or for the deeper feelings they stir in each other.

This was really cute. I liked that though Ian and Bree weren’t looking for a relationship, they both acknowledged their attraction to each other and didn’t pretend like it was there. Bree was kind of prickly in the beginning, but it wasn’t long before she warmed up. Ian seemed kind of stuffy, but it wasn’t long before we saw the passionate man he tried to bury underneath all that starch.

I think the best part about this story is the intimacy of the characters. Little things Ian would do for Bree, or vice verse, that showed they really cared for each other. I did start to get annoyed with Bree toward the end of the novel for her reaction to something Ian says, but McCarthy was able to turn it around for me.

4 out of 5

SWEET DREAMS
by Linda Winstead Jones

I believe this story is connected in some way to an existing series Winstead Jones has written, but her website isn’t very helpful and I’m not positive. This novella had a darker theme than the others. In this case, the magical cat in question was the villain.

Ruby receives a gift from a secret admirer at a neighbor’s holiday party – a beautifully carved jade cat. But once she brings it home, strange things start happening to her. She has vivid nightmares of a large cat stealing her souls, the statue seems to follow her where ever she goes and the walls themselves seem to purr menacingly. Her sexy neighbor Zane also starts spending more time with her, and she finds herself leaning on him more and more the crazier things seem to get. But is Zane everything he appears to be, or is he part of the growing threat against her?

I really liked this story. It was kind of nice to have a break and delve into something a little darker in this novella. Ruby owns a bakery and isn’t interested in having a relationship at all. She’s perfectly content to run her shop and live alone. I liked that. Too often we see heroines who SAY they’re content to be alone, but deep inside they’re really longing for someone.

Zane was an excellent counterpart for Ruby. He has a job to do and his attraction to her is getting in the way of it. He was chivalrous and noble, but his motives were somewhat suspect. It was great how even we as readers weren’t sure which side his loyalties fell on. The story was kind of creepy and dark, but there were moments of levity as well.

4 out of 5

CHRISTMAS HEAT
by Lora Leigh

This novella is part of Leigh’s Breeds series. To be honest, I don’t really care fro the series as a whole. I only read about half of the first book before setting it down. The concept behind it never really appealed to me. So I wasn’t expecting much from this novella. I have to say, I really enjoyed it.

Librarian Haley McQuire overhears a plot against the Breeds at a holiday party and notifies Noble Chavin, a sexy feline she’s been attracted to for sometime. While she waits for the offenders to stand trial so she can testify, Noble keeps a close watch on her. But when her truck is blown up and her feline bodyguard is killed, Noble realizes he’s going to have to take the matter of safety into his own hands. He also can no longer deny that she’s his mate.

This is definitely the hottest of the four stories. The sexual chemistry between Noble and Haley fairly singed the pages. Haley wasn’t a limp dishrag heroine. She had guts and she stood up for what she knew was right. Noble was overprotective and certainly an alpha of the first order, but he still respected Haley and didn’t try to take over her life. There was some humor in the story, especially once all the Breeds descend on Haley to protect her, with some really cute results.

I found myself intrigued enough by the concept behind their mating that I might go back and try the series again from the beginning.

4.5 out of 5

Each story in this collection offers something different and unique. All of them were fun, fresh and sexy. I highly recommend this collection, whether you’re existing fans of the authors or completely new to them.

This book is available from Berkley. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

four-half-stars

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